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New Stadium puts Orange County on Map

By CHRIS HOCKMAN – chris.hockman@uslsoccer.com, 08/17/17, 4:08PM EDT

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OCSC Owner Keston's vision being fulfilled as world-class facility gets official debut on ESPN3


Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

IRVINE, Calif. – After numerous seasons without a permanent home, Friday will mark an historic moment in the history of Orange County SC as the club celebrates opening its new Champions Soccer Stadium at Orange County Great Park when it plays host to Phoenix Rising FC.

For players like Belgian defender Roy Meeus in particular, who joined the club prior to last season and has seen the club's transformation under the leadership of Owner James Keston and General Manager & Executive Vice President Oliver Wyss, the night promises to be a special one.

“It’s great, the field is very nice, the locker rooms are very nice. It’s great to have a place that we can finally call home,” said Meeus. “Great Park was good, but it’s not a stadium like we have now. We’re all very excited, and happy, that we finally have our home base, which we can use and hopefully get three points.”

Orange County Head Coach Logan Pause, who took the reins at the club this offseason, agrees.

“[Tuesday] was amazing in a sense of opening up, really, a world-class stadium, and venue, environment, and surface, and home," said the former Chicago Fire player. "It’s been a long time coming, and a lot of work has gone in to it, in terms of this vision coming to fruition.”

The new venue had a soft open, hosting its first match on Tuesday when OCSC played Tulsa Roughnecks FC, but the match against Phoenix on Friday will be the grand opening of the stadium, and bring with it new possibilities for the club overall.

The centerpiece of Keston's vision for the organization when he purchased the team just under a year ago, the new venue is the latest step in bringing greater stability to one of the USL's founding members.

“It’s definitely something that really solidifies us, and puts us on the map,” said Pause. "With James Keston coming in last year as the new owner, and obviously Oliver Wyss being part of this for a long time, putting the vision of the organization in place, this is something we can sell our players, sell our community, everything we’re trying to build, which is have a home that is world class.”


Orange County SC defender Roy Meeus (center) - Photo courtesy Liza Rosalea / Orange County SC

With a big crowd expected after the game was selected as the USL Game of the Week on ESPN3, and post-game fireworks, not to mention a tough opponent in Phoenix, it would be easy to think there would be added pressure, but Pause doesn’t agree.

“We as a club, and me as a coach, we set incredibly high expectations on ourselves, on the team, on the performances this season. We’re the ones that put the pressure on ourselves,” said Pause. “Of course the event, the fireworks afterwards, that adds to the celebration of how far the club has gone, we think that’s a great thing. But we try and put the internal pressure on ourselves.”

A point back of eighth-place OKC Energy FC going into the weekend, Friday’s match presents Orange County with a chance to get into the top eight in the USL's Western Conference. Add that Phoenix sits only two points further back, though, and the game is one of the bigger contests in this weekend's slate of games as the race for the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs continues to build.

Despite that, no-one at the club is necessarily thinking of the bigger picture in terms of what Friday's game means as the players look to simply pick up results that will allow a place in the postseason to take care of itself.

“Right now we’re not worried about the standings, we just look game to game, and we want to win every game,” said Meeus. “Especially these home games, right now we get four home games in a row, and against Tulsa that didn’t work out the way we planned it, so we’re looking for three points on Friday. If that puts us up in the rankings, than great but we just want to win every game and perform at our best.”


Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC

With the opening of a new stadium, and the expectations of the fans and player set high, Friday night is set to provide a memorable night for Orange County's soccer community as the club takes a historically big step forward.

“Fireworks is all well and good, but we need three points more than we need fireworks," said Meeus. "Hopefully we can get that done, if it’s with good soccer, and good play that’s even better. And hopefully we can please our fans by winning.”

The fans will be hoping the same.

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